Marvel movies are a tangled web, indeed

Published 10:29 am Thursday, July 13, 2017

It seems like movie franchises are the best way for studios to make money these days. There are sequels upon sequels upon sequels, and then reboots galore, followed by tying all the movies together within the same “cinematic universe.” It’s kind of like watching a television series except it takes years to complete, instead of being able to tune in on your couch each week.

The downside to this business model, however, is that it gets harder to draw new people to it, the larger it gets. The Marvel movie franchise is probably one of the biggest these days. They started with Iron Man in 2008 and have been rolling ever since, bringing in more characters and expanding the universe well beyond what can be contained in a single movie.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love superhero action movies, especially ones based on Marvel Comics. Although as someone who was introduced to most comic book heroes via 90’s cartoons instead of the comics themselves, I’m not as passionate about sticking to the source material as some fans are. And there are plenty of superheroes being introduced by Marvel’s movie franchise that I didn’t even know existed before. The Guardians of the Galaxy being one good example.

In the beginning of the movie franchise, it was easy to just hop in wherever you wanted. If you missed the first couple of movies, you could always go back later and fill in the blanks.

But now, it’s such a huge cast of characters involved, and there are a tangled web of plot points that influence the happenings of other movies. Starting from the first Iron Man movie up to Spiderman: Homecoming, which just came out this month, there are a total of 16 movies to watch. That’ll take you more than a day to sit through for sure. (Not to mention the confirmed eight additional movies that Marvel is planning for upcoming releases, the next of which is the third Thor movie.)

But considering how wildly successful the franchise has been so far, perhaps there’s really no need to draw in new viewers. It’d be better to focus on just keeping around what they’ve got now. To do that, Marvel has to keep innovating in their movies to make them more interesting than just the typical superhero flick with all the usual plot twists.

I saw Spiderman: Homecoming recently and was quite impressed. The director and scriptwriters actually attempted to keep the story from getting stale. (Especially because this is the third Spiderman reboot in the span of a little over a decade, so they had pressure on them to do better.)

Unlike other Marvel movies, this one is set in a high school with a teenage protagonist. That’s a breath of fresh air from Captain America’s spy thriller vibe or Thor’s otherworldly royal rivalry. And unlike The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy movies, there is no world-ending catastrophe Spiderman must avert to save the day. And unlike Doctor Strange and Ant-Man, it’s not an origin story explaining how Peter Parker came in contact with that pesky radioactive spider.

If Marvel can keep making interesting movies like this, then they’re probably in good shape for a long time to come, even if adding more movies makes the story resemble a spider web Peter Parker might have stumbled into. One day we’ll need a flow chart to keep up with everyone.

Eventually we’ll reach peak superhero saturation and get tired of watching all these save-the-world movies. But if Spiderman: Homecoming is any indication, we’re not there yet.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.